A few days ago I received a wonderfully detailed and insightful email from Roy van de Hoek.   Roy is very knowledgeable about local conservation and ecological issues.  He has the added distinction of  once having worked at Alondra Park – smack in the middle of the Dominguez watershed and adjacent to the Dominguez Channel.  There’s a lot of good suggestions and history in his email, so I thought it best to try to reproduce it as completely as possible.

Here’s an edited version of his email after the break.

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The City of LA has just released bicycle commute maps.  Check out the South LA / Harbor Area bike map for the one that relates to the Dominguez watershed.

Here at FADW we’re champions of pedestrian and bicycle access along the Dominguez Channel and to points of interest within the watershed.  Where access is currently permitted, the Channel provides an exclusive travel path for cyclists and pedestrians that is often more picturesque and direct than nearby streets.  This is good.

So it was particularly frustrating to follow up on an email recently sent by the LACBC that called my attention to bicycle access in and around the City of LA.  Here’s their email:

The LA Bike Plan maps have been released.
Your input is needed!

The long awaited City of LA Bike Plan maps were finally made available to the public late last week. The maps will serve as the basic framework of the Plan. The City of Los Angeles has made them available on their website. The complete plan has not yet been released.

We, here at LACBC, feel these maps are not ambitious enough to serve as a blue print for infrastructure change in the next decade. While local connector networks could be improved by the proposed changes, major connectivity issues within the city remain unaddressed.

We are disappointed with the process and the current draft, but we see this as an opportunity to educate and influence the city to create positive movement toward meeting the needs of cyclists.

Your input is crucial! The time is NOW to weigh in on the Bike Plan!

TAKE ACTION by June 12th!
Your comments are an integral and important part of the process!

What you can do:
Review the maps carefully
What is missing? Send in streets that you feel have been overlooked to LA City and to LACBC
Look at the “infeasible” marked streets and choose 5 that you feel should be prioritized.
Send in your comments by June 12th to:
Jordann Turner
LA Bike Plan’s project manager


LACBC will be speaking with public and city officials officials. We will be incorporating your comments to highlight the streets that YOU, our members, feel are important corridors that should not be disregarded.

The LACBC is right on target.

If you walk or bike the access road adjacent to the Channel on its upper reach, you see periodic mile markers painted on the ground, presumably indicating how far you are from the Port of LA.  But with all the blocked access, it’s a case of “You can’t get there from here,” at least directly.   Based on the mile markers, it seems that someone once had the intent to connect a travel corridor along the length of the Channel, but today that simply doesn’t exist.

First off: Let’s not kid ourselves that the upper Dominguez Channel corridor (the only portion with continuous access) is an effective bike route for distance commuters: It’s too fraught with mid-block crossings and with cross walk navigation (where you are a cyclist on the bike path, but then have to be a pedestrian to cross a street) to be useful for serious long range bike commuters.   So from a bike commuter standpoint what it looks like is a series of connected neighborhood cut-throughs.  That’s not ideal, but it’s not bad either.  Also on the plus side is that when viewed from a more generic travel-corridor standpoint the upper Channel also offers good pedestrian access.  What I would call this portion of the Channel is a good start.

The Problem: But all that comes to a halt between El Camino College / Alondra Park and the Port of LA (with a brief exception where the Channel crosses under the 110 Freeway).  Looking at the bike route map, these are areas that really need connectivity: A north-south travel corridor is an obvious need, as is connectivity between isolated sections of already-designated bike route.  But access generally isn’t  allowed along the Channel south of El Camino College.  In many areas access to the Channel as a travel corridor is simply blocked with a chain link gate and a posted no trespassing sign.

Here’s a clickable thumbnail of the upper portion of the Dominguez Channel bike path (indicated by the brown line adjacent to the blue Channel indicator). It starts at near the Hawthorne Airport and comes to a halt on the south side of Alondra Park near El Camino College. Shared roadways (balkanized at the right of the picture) are indicated in purple. An obvious connection from the shared roadways to the Dominguez Channel bike route is at 135th street where the main channel is fed from the east (not indicated on map).

Here’s a clickable thumbnail of the middle section of the Dominguez Channel bike path. As you can see, there’s only one short section open. Even though there are a number of shared roadways nearby (purple lines indicating roads signed for cycling), no connection is made to the Channel.

A clickable thumbnail of the lower part of the Dominguez Channel. No access is indicated parallel to the 405 on this map or the previous (with the one exception of a short stretch under the 110) even though it seems like an obvious commute corridor since the number of cross streets one would have to contend with when traveling parallel to the 405 is minimal.

What to do: Please make a comment to Jordann Turner at the email address above.  Feel free to copy the LACBC or post a comment here as well.  Just the knowledge that there is an interested constituency may be enough nucleate a change of plans in LA City planning.

This is the next leg of our tour down the Dominguez Channel.  These pictures were taken on the same day that the pictures in Tour de Channel – Part I were taken – right after a heavy rain.

We pick up the Dominguez Channel at Crenshaw and 120th Street after its brief underground journey beneath the park and ride.

Here’s the busy intersection of Crenshaw and 120th.  I’m looking west towards the car park where the Channel runs underground.  The low hill in the background is the 105 freeway runs.  The metro rail station is nearby to the right of this picture.

This area has seen a real boom in business activity – there’s a Home Depot here and a number of smaller businesses that seem prosperous.

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We’re looking for opportunities to green the Dominguez Channel – if you know of any low-hanging fruit, please pass it along!  And we’re finding we need to move FAST, because, despite the lousy economy, the market is hot for impractical bad development.

What could I possibly mean?

Just a few days ago, intrepid Dominguero Brent Morgan posted his first dispatch of Tour de Channel.  He spied an excellent open space opportunity along 120th Street, where Yukon Street hits the 105 Freeway.

Open space opportunity near 105 fwy & Yukon. Photo: Brent Morgan.

Open space opportunity near 105 fwy & Yukon. Photo: Brent Morgan.

Nearby is a bus stop and parking area for public transit.  While parkland adjacent to a freeway is loaded with its own environmental issues, it’s several orders of magnitude better than, say, “open space” that is really a railroad, such as the City of Hawthorne has called out here:

Excerpt from zoning map, City of Hawthorne.

Railroad tracks zoned Open Space. Excerpt from zoning map, City of Hawthorne.

Yes, the City’s own zoning map appears to be endorsing the idea of kids living in R-3 (high density) housing to go play at active railroad tracks. (to be fair, yes, the Memorial Center is also open space in the lower right hand corner)  

Ironically, the land in the photo above, this nice potential park site, is zoned commercial.  The Dominguez channel upstream, like the rail road tracks, is zoned open space, but again, I can’t imagine any public agency seriously wanting kids to occupy the bottom of a concrete channel – can you?  The roads on the Right-of-Way is one thing, but the entire channel??


Green "Open Space," aka the Dominguez channel, and Commercial zoning where actual open space remains. Excerpted from City Hawthorne zoning map.

But don’t worry, soon this disconnect will be rectified.  Our lovely green patch on the channel is expected to be covered with storage units, showing that land use decisions are made with a great deal of attention to community needs.  

Because what we’re really overflowing with is stuff – and definitely not usable open space.


This is the first in a series of posts. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be working to document the Dominguez channel in photos and words.

These are photos that I took of the upper portion of the Channel right after some recent rains. Although it had stopped raining, the water in the channel was muddy, turbulent, and fast flowing. I was glad there was little chance of slipping in. Even though I knew intellectually to expect high flow right after the rain, I wasn’t prepared for the high rate and volume, having previously only seen the channel at times of low flow.

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We do.  And at least in the abstract the County of LA does as well.  They’ve documented the Dominguez watershed online.  See:

We hope to do a little better in the coming weeks.

One of the Dominguez issues that I became aware of recently is that there is no overall DW governing authority that has a holistic vision.  This seems well-reflected in the Future Growth link on the County site which says it is “coming soon”.  Memory says that it’s been “coming soon” for years.  Our goal is to work within the system to change that.

There are undoubtedly more interested parties and stakeholders out there, but perhaps they aren’t aware of one another or in communication.  If you’re one of them, please join us as we try to focus a lens on watershed issues that bear directly on quality of life, access to and promotion of nature and recreation, and freedom of movement along the watershed corridors.

Our guiding concepts are necessarily vague at this point, but there’s plenty of work to go around.  One commonality of purpose is that we’ve found ourselves buying in to a “waves to willows” concept of access and watershed renewal which borrows the best successes from other regions’ watershed projects.

To get oriented on the DW, there’s a good (short) general synopsis of the overall geographical extent of the DW under the Current Conditions link, which is quoted below.

Today, the Dominguez Watershed is comprised of approximately 110 square miles of land in the southern portion of Los Angeles County. 96% of its total area is developed and the overall watershed land use is predominantly residential. Rather than being defined by the natural topography of its drainage area, the Dominguez watershed boundary is defined by a complex network of storm drains and smaller flood control channels. The Dominguez Channel extends from the Los Angeles International Airport to the Los Angeles Harbor and drains large if not all portions of the cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, El Segundo, Gardena, Lawndale, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Carson and Los Angeles. The remaining land areas within the watershed drain to several debris basins and lakes or directly to the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors.

Getting more personally oriented will be the business of the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!